Knowledge about Habits and Habit Formation Model

A brand’s success purely depends on the knowledge about your customers. One must understand the customer’s interests, likes, dislikes, age, income and various other demographics.
But most importantly you need to have great insight on your customer’s buying behaviour. In fact as said by the New York Times business writer, Charles Duhigg, “40 to 45 per cent of what we do every day are not behaviours. They are actually just habits playing out,”

Thus, habits seems to be an intriguing subject to most of the marketers.

What is Habit? How are habits formed?

As per the definition given by Wikipedia, “A habit is a routine of behaviour that is repeated regularly and tends to occur subconsciously.”
Basically it’s a form of learning wherein your behaviour changes based on repetition or experience to such an extent that it becomes automatic.

Naturally, a particular habit tends to begin with a certain psychological pattern. This pattern is known as a ‘Habit Loop’. This loop has been easily broken down by Charles Duhigg in his book – ‘The Power of Habit’.

The loop consists of three basic steps or parts. They are –

  • Trigger – The first part is known as a trigger and it is also known as a cue, which awakens your brain and gives its attention to a particular behaviour.
  • Routine – The very act of the behaviour is known as routine. Or it can be known as the process of starting to enact a behaviour.
  • Reward – Much like any other reward, this particular step makes your routine appealing such that you remember it and continue to follow the habit loop.


For example, you realise you need to work out to become healthy. Hence, this is the trigger; going to a gym becomes your routine; and the fitness is the reward.

Habit Formation Model –

Habits are indeed powerful but they usually wouldn’t last forever.

Wikipedia says, “Habit formation is the process by which a behaviour, through regular repetition, becomes automatic or habitual.”

According to the author of the book ‘Hooked’, Nir Eyal, “Forming habits is imperative for the survival of many products. As infinite distractions compete for our attention, companies are learning to master novel tactics to stay relevant in users’ minds. Amassing millions of users is no longer good enough. Companies increasingly find that their economic value is a function of the strength of the habits they create.”

Eyal brought out the habit formation model known as the ‘Hook Model’. The model is almost similar to Duhigg’s habit loop, except that this model consists of an extra step. The steps are –

  • Trigger
  • Action
  • Variable Reward
  • Investment


The Investment step tends to be neglected by many companies. It’s the investment that the consumer would make, such as effort, time, data, money, etc. which could further hook them towards the product, especially for the future.

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How habits or habit formation helps in marketing –

In the recent times, looking down at your smartphones seems to be one of the well-known habits. We may not know it as a habit but it sure is among our daily routines.
Other examples include reading a newspaper, or opting Google the moment you’re in any doubt, or ordering your usual drink or meal from a restaurant, etc.

The case of Pepsodent toothpaste –

To understand how a particular habit helps your brand’s marketing prospects, Duhigg takes an example of a toothpaste.

Almost a century back, people in the US never bothered to brush their teeth. Claude C. Hopkins, a prominent advertising executive, came across Pepsodent. He created a daily habit out of a product by triggering the consumer. Instead of giving a tag line centred about removing film on the teeth, he said – “Get rid of that film. Pepsodent gives you a beautiful smile.”

BAM! People acquired this habit automatically as they loved the refreshing feeling.

The case of Target –

Another interesting example given by Duhigg was the controversial Target story. Due to their market research tactics, Target found out that baby supplies-related-purchasing habits were formed even before the baby was born. Eventually Target ended up giving coupons or vouchers in order to attract more pregnant women.

But shockingly the store gave coupons to a 16 year old. The father of the girl yelled at the store manager and asked him if he was encouraging his daughter to get pregnant. The manager apologised but later it was realised that the girl was indeed pregnant. So clearly Target managed to find out even before the father.

By asking yourself the following questions, your brand’s habit strategy can be a huge success –

  • Does the tagline include a habit?
  • Is the brand getting enough sales? If so, which section of the people does it vouch for the most?
  • Does the tagline involve a reward?
  • Can people be hooked to your brand?
  • Are you giving out a compelling story that attracts many people?

and so on…


So make the most out of the nature of human habits for your brand’s success. You may even become the next Nike, Starbucks or American Express, who have all had success in their habit-creation endeavour.
After all, “All our life … is but a mass of habits.”

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Navaneetha Suresh

Navaneetha Suresh

Navaneetha, commonly known as "nav", loves to read, play badminton, play the keyboard and sing but when she's not doing any of those, she loves to write. What started as a high school hobby to write is now her ongoing passion.

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